Back from Vacation and Thirteen Reasons Why Review

The refreshment from taking a vacation cannot begin to be described by this simple blogger.  My husband and I decided to treat ourselves after a long and stressful first year in Jacksonville with a seven-day Western Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Dream.

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The entire experience was the pampering of the mind, body, and soul that I had been craving only 180 teaching days prior to our date of disembarkation.  The Spa 9 salon saw more of my body than the sun did!  Because this was my first cruise, I really only had slight expectations, and entered the Cape Canaveral port with an open mind and a Kindle brimming with titles.

During our days at sea, I spent a great deal of time reading, sipping iced tea, and applying suntan lotion.  My favorite time of the day, approximately 10 minutes before sunrise, was designated to the Serenity deck, cup of coffee in one hand, and reading material in the other.

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The Carnival Dream stopped in four ports: Cozumel and Costa Maya in Mexico, Belize, and Roatan in Honduras.  My husband and I took advantage of the opportunity to explore the ports and visited the Mayan Ruins of Tulum, sight-seeing at the Mayan Princess resort, and a biking and kayaking excursion in Costa Maya.

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When I wasn’t playing in the sun – AKA ritualistically applying SPF 50 ever 15 minutes so my fair skin wouldn’t morph into a blistered tomato – I was clearing some of the titles from my “Want to Read” Goodreads shelf.  I began with a book that many of my students have read, and a few commented that it was “good” – the international teenage lingo for “You should read this.”

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

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(Via Goodreads.comClay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list.

Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.

I have read Jay Asher’s other novel, The Future of Us, and found it’s nontraditional storyline of teens who see their futures played out in front of their eyes on their Facebook timelines a decade before Mark Zuckerburg launched said website to be interesting as well, I had a similar problem with that book as well as Thirteen Reasons Why.  While I liked the concept of this book, a narrative told through one character listening to audiotape recordings from a girl who committed suicide, I struggled to find a connection between myself and any of the characters.  I found myself not really caring about any of them, including Hannah, the victim and narrator from the tapes.  I think that if Asher had reduced the number of “accomplices” to only five or six, more attention could be paid to the development of each character.  As it stands, surface information is shared and therefore my overall connection is minimal.

Another thing that bothered me about this novel was the construction of the plot line.  Again, the concept was intriguing, but the execution was subpar.  When Hannah was speaking through her recordings, the text was italicized, which was helpful, but the back and forth between this narration and chronicling of Clay’s thoughts, actions, and dialogue with others was so incredibly boring or inane that I found myself skipping over it to get back to Hannah’s tale, which was only a minor relief.

The one positive about this novel is its accessibility for young readers to identify with some of the harassment and subsequent emotions that Hannah experienced.  I also appreciated Asher’s acknowledgement of the signs of depression and suicidal signs that Hannah exhibited, and Clay’s reaction to the realization that he had observed these things in her, but didn’t know what to do about them.  I think that it’s a responsible take on a very sensitive subject what with the rise of the bullying of gay and lesbian teens, cyber bullying, and other issues that teenagers face today.  For that, I do thank Jay Asher for writing this book, and hopefully the message will overcome the mediocre writing style.

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